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I received my ‘Energy Update’ email this morning and the above headline caught my eye!

Here is the exact text content from the email;

ADVERTISEMENT FOR VOLTAGE OPTIMISATION WAS MISLEADING

EMSc, a supplier of voltage-reduction equipment, has had a complaint against it upheld by the Advertising Standards Authority in relation to an online advertisement for its ‘Powerstar’ range. The ASA said that EMSc should not claim a typical reduction regardless of the type of equipment fed by the mains supply. The advertisement was held to breach CAP Code rules 3.1  (misleading advertising) and 3.7, which states that when making such claims, marketers must hold documentary evidence “that consumers are likely to regard as objective and that are capable of objective substantiation”. The ASA considered that before making any efficiency savings claims for the equipment, Powerstar needed to hold evidence that supported the level of efficiency saving claimed “in the situations in which the equipment would be used”.

My view on voltage reduction is this: on the basis of a simple energy balance, reduced energy consumption will be achieved at the cost of reduced output. By the same token equipment with regulated or controlled output should use the same amount of input energy (in reality it may actually become less efficient thanks to increased resistive losses, and therefore draw MORE power at lower voltage; I show this in the case of an LED lamp in a video clip at http://youtube.com/vilnisvesma). It also annoys me that we rarely see a mention of the continuous standing loss incurred by the devices when energised.

Meanwhile the full ASA ruling, which must have implications for anyone promoting voltage “optimisation”, can be seen at www.asa.org.uk: search their rulings for ‘EMSc’.

Here is the actual ruling;

Ad description

The website http://www.powerstar.com, for a supplier and installer of electrical engineering equipment, seen on 22 July 2016, listed voltage optimisation systems as one of the products they offered. Text under the tab “Negative Power (Back EMF)” stated “A UNIQUE, PATENTED VOLTAGE OPTIMISATION SYSTEM” followed by an explanation of how the system worked and claims about improvements in efficiency. Text stated “… the magnetic flux causes the induction of a reverse current, which is a fraction of the supply current, typically 10% (70%-80% of the 12% typically achieved by Powerstar)”. Further text, underneath the heading “Benefits of the patented Powerstar design”, stated “70-80% of the total savings come from the negative power (back EMF) feedback while 20-30% come from the improvement in the equipment efficiency”.

Issue

The complainant, a chartered engineer with an interest in energy efficiency, challenged whether the claim “70-80% of the total savings come from the negative power (back EMF) feedback while 20-30% come from the improvement in the equipment efficiency” misleadingly suggested that the efficiency of connected equipment was improved at reduced voltage and could be substantiated.

Response

Powerstar said that, given the level of technical knowledge and proficiency readers of their website were likely to have, they were confident that readers of their website would not be misled. They supplied a report compiled by the University of Warwick between September and December 2011, which they believed demonstrated that Powerstar improved energy efficiency by reducing voltage. They also said Powerstar had an approved UK patent. The process for obtaining this had involved them needing to hold evidence that they believed had shown that the device provided energy efficiency savings by reducing voltage. They supplied a copy of the patent application document.

They said they were willing to make changes to the claim to state that it applied only to electrical loads which were subject to improved efficiency when voltage was reduced.

Assessment

Upheld

The ASA considered readers were likely to interpret the claim, in the context of the explanation in which it appeared, to mean that, with any electrical device or in any system in which it was installed, the Powerstar typically achieved an improved efficiency of 12%. Given that the claim did not limit itself to any particular electrical device or type of installation, we considered it suggested 12% was a typical efficiency saving, for all devices and in any installation. We considered Powerstar needed to hold evidence which showed that, across a wide range of electrical products and installations, 12% was a typical efficiency saving.

We noted that the report compiled by the University of Warwick stated that they had undertaken mathematical modelling of power flows and had conducted a simulation study, but it contained no information which showed that efficiency savings had been obtained from a wide range of electrical products or installations and that 12% was a typical level of energy efficiency saving. The patent application document contained a technical explanation of how the technology was designed to work but, again, contained no information that showed that efficiency savings had been obtained from a wide range of products or installations in real-life situations and that 12% was a typical saving. We welcomed Powerstar’s willingness to make changes to their ad. However, before making any efficiency savings claims for the equipment, we considered Powerstar needed to hold evidence that supported the level of efficiency saving claimed, in the situations in which the equipment would be used. Because Powerstar had not supplied that evidence, we concluded that the claims were likely to mislead.

The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising) and 3.7 (Substantiation).

Action

The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Powerstar to ensure that energy efficiency claims for the equipment were supported by evidence of its performance in the situations in which it would be used.

CAP Code (Edition 12)

3.1     3.7

Here’s the link to the original ruling on the ASA website.

Thanks for reading.

Philip Smith-Lawrence

 

 

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